Community & Customer Engagement

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We talk a lot about customer engagement, the right strategy and how to engage better and so on. The changing landscape has made it so that customer engagement is becoming more and more important by the day.

[pullquote]”Touchpoints matter, but it’s the full journey that really counts” – Rawson, Duncan and Jones, HBR[/pullquote]In fact, some would say that customer engagement is more important than numbers. In their paper “The Truth About Customer Experience”, Alex Rawson, Ewan Duncan, and Conor Jones say, and I quote, “touchpoints matter, but it’s the full journey that really counts.” In other words, engaging with your customer doesn’t start and end with the “Hi… here’s your solution, have a good day” routine.

Say goodbye to the “here’s your hat, what’s your hurry” engagement. Say hello to online communities.

First and foremost, what is a virtual community? It is a term thought to have been coined by Howard Rheingold, who described it as: “social aggregations that emerge from the Internet when enough people carry on public discussions long enough and with sufficient human feeling to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.”

It is this level of “sufficient human feeling” that is key to forming sustained relationships with a customer. In other words, the tenuous bonds formed between members of virtual communities are what propel the levels of engagement up a few notches.

Spotify

Case no. 1: Spotify

One of the brands that has absolutely nailed the Virtual Community of Customers concept is Spotify. Since setting up their customer-centric, customer-run community program December 2013, their community of customers has just grown in leaps and bounds. These ‘Rockstars’ help users with their Spotify journey. And being users themselves, who better to guide the newbies?

From the time they sign up, the users know that they are number 1 and their community of fellow users just reiterates this.

There’s plenty of interaction – swapping of songs choices, discussions on the merits of the different playlists and major doses of healthy interaction between the members of the community. Spread across the world, these members of the online community help pull the brand forward.

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Case no.2: Alex Turnbull, of Groove

Not only does he post a tell-all post every week on his hugely popular blog, Alex Turnbull personally responds to the comments left on it by his readers. Which leads to more interaction. More dialogue. More discussions. Lots of conversation.

All carried out on the comments section of his blog. Alex’s blog is a classic example of using one simple medium, and using it well, to build a great community. The opposite of the Spotify community in terms of the number of moderators involved and the initial set up, the community nonetheless is a thriving one.

Thought Leaders and Influencers participate and add their valuable opinions to the topics, making it all a very interactive and informative environment. Guest blogs and articles by other industry greats are all just the seed to keep the conversation going.

So what sets a virtual community apart?

  • It fosters great customer relationships. Best part is, your presence isn’t required 24 x 7 to fuel it. Once it gets going, the community becomes self-sustaining.
  • It helps breed brand evangelists and advocates. From a solitary person singing your praises, a whole bunch of people discussing your merits and extolling them can convert non-customers into customers a lot faster.
  • It helps a brand to stay current, keep abreast of its customers needs. By simply listening to what your customers are discussing, you can make magic happen.
  • It helps foster trust and develop sustained relationships, between the brand and its users.
  • It is on, all day, every day. With the global trend demanding 24 x 7 x 365 service, a virtual community is the best fit for full-on, round the clock support.

“63% of marketers say engagement manifests in customer renewals, retention and repeat purchases”, says Jim Tierney, writing in the Loyalty360 blog. Can you imagine the kind of returns this kind of all out engagement would bring?

A strong and passionate community made of your loyal customers – isn’t that the stuff of dreams? Say hello to communities. Say hello to building communities for better customer engagement. Say hello to lasting customer relationships.

Lavanya Donthamshetty

Writer. Apple-lover. Follower of big brands. Interested in talking about all things customer support. Follow me on Twitter @lavanyad